Wednesday, October 19, 2011

BBC Scotland drama and comedy notes

Scottish members of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain met with BBC Scotland at Pacific Quay in Glasgow last night [Tuesday, Oct. 18th 2011]. Present were TV drama executive Gaynor Holmes [GH]; radio drama development producer David Ian Neville {DN]; and Owen Bell [OB], who works in comedy development across radio and TV. Many thanks to Julie Ann Thomason for organising the session. Here are a few notes:

GH: BBC Scotland’s been marked for growth as a creative hub, looking to work more directly with talent such as writers. It feels like a good time to be making drama in-house at BBC Scotland. Drama has been largely protected from cuts.

OB: A lot of Scottish TV comedy's made by an indie, The Comedy Unit. There’s a push for ideas from both the Comedy Unit – and beyond. The rest of Scotland should be represented as well, we’re looking to work with indies from other places.

Comedy drama tends to have two different lengths for TV and radio. On TV comedy dramas tend to be 45-60 mins. On radio there are 30 mins, some 4 x 15 mins slots. {OB defined comedy drama as having characters who develop, an over-arching narrative – whereas sitcom characters don’t tend to develop, don’t learn from their mistakes.}

More than anything else, BBC1 wants to find a studio-based pre-watershed sitcom, something to replace My Family – that’s a definite priority.

DN: BBC Scotland radio drama produces work in-house, working directly with writers. The bulk of dramas are made for Radio 4 across all the slots – Afternoon Play [45 mins]; Saturday Play [60 mins]; classic serial; Women’s Hour Drama [5 x 15 mins].

Producers work directly with writers. They want to see radio scripts, not theatre scripts or screenplays. Original work, first and foremost. The Afternoon Play – eclectic, often contemporary. It’s where most new writers start in radio drama.

Radio Scotland also commissions eight 30 min plays a year, all contemporary. Across the stations radio drama runs serials and returning series, but singles are its staple diet.

GH: BBC1 is a big, broad church. Drama has to be emotionally complex – appeal to heart and head. BBC2 drama has more authored pieces, often by writer-directors. Issue-led, with big, robust ideast. BBC3 – broadly appealing for an 18-35 audience.

Returning drama series are far more likely to get away. We tend to look at a treatment first from more established writers. From emerging writers we’ll want to see a script, to make sure they can write. Established writers can approach direct or send work via their agent. Unagented writers need to go via the BBC writersroom.

DN: For radio drama, the key is having a story you’re burning to tell. You’ve already through the idea. It should be an obsession for you.

No comments: